Katasha Grice of Columbus doesn't have sickle cell disease but she knows it's important for others to learn about the disorder.
"This is something we need to make people aware of," Grice said Saturday after completing the annual Walk-A-Thon sponsored by the Association For Sickle Cell, Lower Chattahoochee Region in Columbus. About 200 people took part in the 2.3 mile walk from Fourth Street Baptist Church to 12th Street and back to the church's parking lot.
The walk was aimed at calling attention to the hereditary disease that threatens red blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen to parts of the body. The condition can cause severe headaches, stomach cramps, liver damage, kidney failure, strokes and in some cases death. There is no cure for the disease.
Sickle cell disease or the trait is most common among African-Americans but has been found in Latinos, people whose ancestry is from Greece, Western Asia or India and Native Americans.
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Grice, a 21-year-old student majoring in nursing at Columbus State University, was taking part in her first walk as a volunteer. "When we talk about diseases, sickle cell is not one that comes up." she said.
Larry Ware, 53, said he has lived with the disease since he learned about it as a child. His bouts with the disorder are mostly feeling anemic.
Ware said he has supported the association since the walks started more than 10 years ago.
"I talk to people every day," Ware said. "They think they know but they don't."
After the walk, Patrick Eppinger attracted a crowd with a rap song about sickle cell. The 16-year-old was challenged to write a song after he appeared on a local radio show.
"I'd like to get tested," said Eppinger, who lives at the House of Mercy and is working toward his GED.
In front of the church, a mobile van from the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia conducted more than 25 tests. Harold J. Dobbs, an outreach coordinator from Atlanta, said one of every 10 people tested will have the trait but not the disease and one of every 400 tested has sickle cell.
If you want to learn more about the disease, call Lois Williams at 706-689-4168 or 706-566-6329.